Mervi Hämäläinen, translation
Petri Vanhanen, photo
Comic strip artist Tomi Riionheimo and animator Bill Plympton had a discussion at the Tampere Film Festival.
An American animator Bill Plympton and a Finnish comic strip artist Tomi Riionheimo are sitting face to face in a café of the centre of the Film Festival. Plympton is giving Riionheimo a promotional postcard, and is asking politely in which magazine he could find Riionheimo's comic strip.
Riionheimo draws Rieku and Raiku, a comic strip which is known for its politically incorrect subject matter. Over twenty of Plympton's animations can be seen in the Festival. The men have met before on the Erlange Comic Book Festival.
They both have lots of projects currently. Riionheimo is the President of the production company Indie Films and does graphic work for a humorous Finnish band Eläkeläiset. He tells that so far this year he has managed to sleep one night at home. Plympton is kept busy by commercials, music videos, and of course his own animations. They both say that time is an artist's biggest problem. He has more ideas than chance to make them real.
Plympton tells enthusiastically about his newest idea that began in a hotel room.
– I was sleeping in my room on a big pillow, and I started to think how the pillow would slowly change into a mouth that would start to eat my head.
This is a classic Plympton idea. Metamorphosis and unusual events are an essential part of the language of his animations. However, Plympton get his ideas from every-day life.
– I just take things a step beyond realism.
Riionheimo and Plympton are connected by the need to provoke people. They laugh that they should not show their work to their grandparents. In Riionheimo's Rieku and Raiku comic strips the bird characters get drunk and try to pick up female birds. Especially in America, Plympton's work creates outrage. There his works are mostly shown in small cinemas in night time. According to Pympton, his works are not appreciated because he has sex and violence is animated films. People still believe that animated films are for children and should contain only material suitable for children.
– Kids are not bothered by it, the parents are, Plympton snorts.
Provocative material has not been an obstacle in Riionheimo's career. Today, Rieku and Raiku is published in the Saturday edition of Aamulehti, one of the biggest newspapers in Finland. Riionheimo says that in his strip he is testing the limits of publishing threshold.
– Actually, I'd like to be even more provocative, he grins.
Plympton says that he is almost always drawing. Sometimes he gets up six in the morning so that he could have time to draw as much as possible. Also, he has new animation ideas all the time. You could think that it could become stressful that animation is a part of every aspect of his life. Plympton does not think so.
– I love this. Drawing is so much fun!
Mostly, Riionheimo draws during the evenings after he gets the text from the writer. He says that sometimes even drawing can feel like work. For example, a bad script can kill the inspiration. This is not a problem for Plympton because he writes his own scripts.
Plympton wants to keep politics out of his animations. The reason is clear. Politics changes all the time; films that comment on the current political situation age quickly.
– If I were to make an animation about, for example, Bush, it would soon be obsolete. I want to make films that last forever.
Updated 14 March 2006 8:41